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2015-16 NBA Preview: Forget D-Rose, The Numbers Say The Bulls Belong To Jimmy Butler

We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here.


The Chicago Bulls are hoping that a new coach and a new system can help them do what they weren’t able to do during Tom Thibodeau’s five-year reign in Chicago: Beat LeBron James in the postseason. There is a lot of optimism surrounding new coach Fred Hoiberg and the offense he is putting in place. But with almost the exact same roster coming back — along with the addition of talented rookie Bobby Portis — the fear within the city is that the Bulls’ championship window may have already closed. Former MVP Derrick Rose hasn’t been able to stay healthy the last few years, and the Bulls understand that no matter how much talent is on the roster, they won’t be able to get over the hump in the playoffs unless Rose returns to his All-Star form on a consistent basis. On the other hand, FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system has Jimmy Butler on track to be the Bulls’ top performer this season.

CARMELO pegs the Bulls to go 47-35:

carmelo_depth_chart_BULLS

And here’s what to expect from Chicago’s key players:

derrick-rose

To try to predict anything about Derrick Rose‘s career seems fruitless at this point; notice the category CARMELO puts Rose into: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Although the Bulls hope Rose’s body has finally recovered after three knee surgeries in the past three years, even the most ardent Rose supporters know they don’t know anything for sure. Rose fractured his left orbital (basically his eye socket) in the first practice of training camp, and it’s unclear whether a new protective mask will affect his game.


jimmy-butler

Jimmy Butler is the Bulls’ best all-around player and feels even more confident after signing a max extension in the offseason. He is on record as saying he wants to prove last season wasn’t a “fluke,” and CARMELO doesn’t think it was, projecting Butler as an All-Star-caliber player this season.


pau-gasol

Pau Gasol proved last season that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank by averaging 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds a game and earning the first All-Star starting nod of his career. It’s hard to believe the 35-year-old Gasol will be able to play in 78 games again (as he did a season ago), but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down after leading Spain to a EuroBasket championship in September.


joakim-noah

The emotional soul of the Bulls, Joakim Noah, did not play well last season as he dealt with the lingering effects of offseason left knee surgery. He also struggled to find his way alongside Gasol. He is feeling good to start the season and believes he is healthy enough to put up big numbers again.


nikola-mirotic

Nikola Mirotic had an up and down rookie season, but he showed flashes of offensive brilliance. The Bulls hope he will thrive in Hoiberg’s new system.


doug-mcdermott

Doug McDermott did not play well in his rookie campaign and could not find a spot in Thibodeau’s rotation after a knee injury early in the year. He is playing with much more confidence in the preseason and enjoys the working environment that Hoiberg has formed. With McDermott’s renewed confidence, the Bulls expect big things from the former Creighton sharpshooter. CARMELO … does not expect big things.

Read more:

All our NBA player projections

All our 2015-16 NBA Previews

Nick Friedell covers the Chicago Bulls for ESPN.

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